Aung San Suu Kyi: Warm British Welcome No Challenge to Burmese President

Posted June 20th, 2012 at 9:10 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded an honorary doctorate Wednesday from Oxford University, which she said “stood up and spoke for her” during her long years of isolation under house arrest in her homeland.

In her acceptance address, the Nobel laureate told her audience that she survived years of imprisonment under Burmese military rule, in large part because of what she learned at Oxford about “respect (for) all that is best in human civilization.”

She also lamented the lack of campus life in Burma, saying the young people there have for generations been denied the advantages that come with the freedom to pursue knowledge. She asked the university to help restore academic life to her impoverished country, and to help ensure that investments in Burma are, in her words, “democracy friendly and human rights friendly.”

Earlier Wednesday, Aung San Suu Kyi says Burma's president should not see the warm welcome she has received during her first trip to Britain in 24 years as a challenge.

The Nobel Peace laureate said in a television interview the reception is a sign of “how much the world wants Burma to change in the right direction.”

She also said she does not view her new position as a perilous one.

“I think of it as a challenge. It's a challenge not just to me and my party but it's a challenge to the government as well, and of course to the people in general, because they must play their part.”

A nominally civilian government came to power last year, as the country's long-ruling military junta stepped aside. Aung San Suu Kyi — released from house arrest in November 2010 — won a parliament seat in an April elections.

Burma's constitution effectively bars the opposition leader from the presidency because of a rule against candidates whose relatives are foreign citizens. Aung San Suu Kyi married a British national, and their two children were born abroad and live in Britain.

Aung San Suu Kyi attended Oxford University in the 1960s and lived with her family there until her return to Burma in 1988.

On Thursday, she addresses both houses of parliament in London – a rare honor — before departing later this week for France. Her tour has also included visits to Switzerland, Ireland and Norway, where she received the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize denied her while under house arrest.

She left Britain and her husband and sons there when she returned to Burma to take care of her sick mother. She spent most of the next 20 years in some form of detention under Burma's decades-long military dictatorship.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide election in 1990, but Burmese military leaders refused to relinquish power.

She was released from her latest house arrest in November 2010 following an election which led to political changes in Burma after half a century of military rule.

After her release, Aung San Suu Kyi resumed active leadership of the National League for Democracy, which she co-founded.